A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

One year on and things have changed very much for the better for the boy Josiah Pyke


It seems ages since my last birthday, thought Josiah Pyke, suddenly and almost unexpectedly discovering that he was eleven.

It had been the sort of year people don’t want to have twice. There had been all sorts of fuss, his father, the Reverend Julian Pyke, had put up the sort of battle that everyone expected. But his fury had been more at the loss of his own good name rather than the loss of a son he’d never wanted.

That son, Josiah, had been a twisted enigma so far as he was concerned. He had been perfect in every respect at birth but that perfection was an example of something he didn’t want people to even consider, that he, their moral guide, had actually fathered a child. Had behaved in a carnal way when he should have been praying, had uncovered his lady’s charms when he should have been chanting, had done the unthinkable when he should have been studying his Bible. He knew the church had long accepted that celibacy is a nonsense, but to him it was a glorious token of spiritual perfection except when his own mother’s group needed something more than words.

So his battle had been the expected one and had completely dissolved away when Mildred suggested that Josiah underwent a thorough medical examination, and everyone knew the reason why. He might be a vicar and a man of God but he was a bully of the worst sort because his victim had been much the weaker of the two.

But he still had his wife to bully, so all, for him, was not lost.

Social services, experts in child development and members of the cash-strapped local council debated furiously, but the cash-strapped argument eventually won through when Mildred Haystack had pointed out that council funds need not be touched because, having buried three husbands, she was independently wealthy and why shouldn’t she lavish some of her bank account on a poor wretched boy who needed love more than he needed anything?

So she appeared in a court which awarded her sole custody of Josiah Pyke even though she was a single lady with no plans to marry again, and very soon after that she put in motion a request to adopt him, and now he was officially her son.

Not my adopted son but my son,” she told him, proudly, “you and I are going to be good together.”

And so they were, and it was his eleventh birthday.

It was early autumn and a school day, so he went to school. A new school, a secondary school, and it was a happy enough day until he discovered that the man imported to lecture on religion was his father, and on that very day he was to have a lesson on the Old Testament from that impossible parent. A lesson taught by his own father. He might have claimed the right not to be taught that lesson as did a couple of boys whose preferred religion was Islam and be told to study something else in the library for the duration as they were, but he didn’t find out who the teacher was until he was actually sitting at a desk, and his father walked in.

He’d never seen his father in his university gown, and as he huddled as low as he could, trying to shrink into the desk, in order to diminish himself and hopefully pass unnoticed. Invisibility would have been the greatest of gifts at that moment.

His father began. He used a somewhat dilute version of his sermon voice, but it rang anyway. It rang with tortured belief, faith and, most of all, the certainty that the speaker was right.

The old Testament is the most important book ever produced,” he said, holding a battered a large copy of that volume in his hands before him. “It tells us so many truths I often find myself wondering why there are still people who don’t believe them, even now when we’re told we live in an enlightened age...”

And the lesson went on. The Reverend Julian Pyke wanted the class to learn the real reason for the existence of evil in the world, so he went on to describe the events that supposedly occurred in the beginning of time, and then his lesson moved on to the first man and the first woman.

God created Eve from Adam’s own flesh,” he intoned, “as they lived in that garden, and let me tell you the depth of their sin on that first ever day on Earth, when everything around them was brand new, let me tell you, and you must try not to be horrified, they were unclothed. Yes, boys and girls, unclothed. Naked. Able to see the evil of each other’s body, but they didn’t know it was evil until the woman, made from Adam’s flesh, spied an apple tree...”

Please sir,” a large boy with a cheeky grin said, “were they married?”

The Reverend Julian Pyke shook his head. “There were no churches yet, no priests, nobody to conduct the service,” he said solemnly.

Then please sir,” the large boy continued, “why didn’t they get dressed?”

They had no clothes, boy, and there were no shops,” he replied, annoyed.

Then sir, couldn’t the woman have knitted some?”

The Reverend Julian Pyke had his lesson planned, and that planning hadn’t involved the asking of questions he’d never properly thought about, and he was beginning to get more than annoyed.

They didn’t know they were naked so why would she knit was she didn’t know they needed?” he asked in the kind of voice that was intended to put a final full-stop to any debate.

But the large boy was having none of it. He wanted to know more, which was probably quite natural in an inquisitive growing boy with intelligence shoe-horned into him by a vibrant nature.

So, sir, were they blind?” he asked.

And the Reverend Julian Pyke lost it.

He knew what the lesson was about because he’d scribbled a few notes to guide him in the correct order of his explanation of the beginnings of life on Earth. And he didn’t want to veer away from the course at all. It was the proper one. There could be no alternative, not in his enraged mind.

You are a barbarous, evil and Satanic child who deserves a sound thrashing before you are damned for all eternity!” he suddenly raged, remembering his own school days when teachers had routinely thrashed boys, usually for nothing at all because one caning at the beginning of a lesson caused an outbreak of calm for the remainder of it.

You, boy, tell him!” he demanded, pointing one very straight and unambiguous finger at Josiah who was still trembling as he tried to melt further into the school desk and hopefully fall unseen through an unexpected hole in the floor.

Me sir?” he asked, calling his own biological father sir for the first time in his life, and not liking it.

Yes, you, whatever you name is!” snapped the Reverend Julian Pyke.

Tell him what, sir?” crumpled Josiah.

Why they couldn’t see their nakedness!” shouted Julian Pyke, “why there were scales on their eyes! Why the Lord had made them that way!”

Josiah didn’t really have time to think, so he said the first thing that came into his head.

Because they were the same person, I should think,” he said, “because she was part of him.”

Good boy,” croaked the vicar in his Pyke gown, “clever boy. You see what others don’t! What’s your name, boy?”

He doesn’t know who I am, thought Josiah, shocked, my father doesn’t recognise me!

J-Joe,” he replied, “they call me Joe...”

And the Reverend Julian Pyke continued with his lesson, happy that an awkward moment had been quashed even though the boy who’d quashed it looked as if he might be a sort of weedy creature, a bit like … what was his name? The brat they said he’d fathered at a different time and in a better life…

And when he got home to a birthday tea, he’d never had one of those before, with a cake and its eleven candles and an ever-smiling Mildred Haystack, he grinned at her with a mouth half full of trifle, and said,

He didn’t know who I was, mum,” he said, “He really didn’t!”

And that was important, thought Mildred, but nowhere near as important as the boy calling her mum on his birthday.

© Peter Rogerson 09.03.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 9, 2018
Last Updated on March 9, 2018
Tags: Josiah, school, teaching, bible, religious education, birthday, mum



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..